They aren’t presents, not really. She doesn’t know his birthday, or any date that makes sense, travelling through time; she never has any money of her own, just cash stolen from ATMs and pilfered credit sticks and tenuous good-will. It doesn’t stop her, though (nothing could, he learns).
She finds him a delicate flower made of sugar; it dissolves on his tongue and floods his mouth with the taste of rose hips. In a market 3000 years in her future she haggles for a garish tie, trading in a cheeky smile and a plastic bracelet from Top Shop. Rose wraps it around his wrist, looping and securing, and he lets her tug him through the crowded stalls; his complaints at the indignity of it all is lost over the sound of her laughter. A water colour painting of the TARDIS done on a postcard, which he finds stuck to the fridge one day without comment.
There are other gifts as well: a dirt-smeared scrap of paper with the names of the brave scrawled across it in her handwriting (she doesn’t laugh, just hugs him tight, her nose buried in the crook of his neck); bobby pins and underwire and chewing gum that save the day; a cup of tea and toast with marmalade left on the jump seat for when he’s finished throwing himself into his work.
They aren’t presents, truly, though they are freely given. Her hand in his, small and hot. Eyes that meet his across a room, golden-brown and full of trust. Long, bleached-blonde hairs stuck to his jacket, clinging to his woolen sleeves. A song stuck in his head, and the laughing, out-of-tune duet they burst into, confusing poor Spartan soldiers with imitations of Freddy Mercury.
Her lips and sweet kisses that he didn’t ask for, didn’t think he deserved, but oh, it would be rude of him not to accept. Not to return the favour with his hands in her hair and around her waist. Soft sighs and promises. Tastes and smells and the feel of her skin. Quiet moments and contentment found in rumpled sheets; found in the way her cheek gets wrinkled from the pillow case overnight; found in the frozen toes she presses to his calf to warm.
He can’t return these gifts, wouldn’t want to, but he knows what he offers her is so inadequate. There’s a debt building, he thinks, and he fears the day she realises he cannot pay her back.